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Students experience missions sacrifice

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Living in a house with no running water for five months and eating fish and rice for every meal may not appeal to most people. Ben Geller*, however, developed a taste for life on the mission field as a short-term worker in Africa.

He also came away with an appreciation for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Geller was grateful for the no-frills accommodations provided by the offering while he shared the Gospel in Senegal among the Lebou, a Muslim people of 150,000.

Geller was one of more than 40 student missionaries who participated last spring in the Hands On program of the International Mission Board. Some of the costs of his food, lodging and transportation were offset by a portion of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Cooperative Program. The Hands On program, which gives seminary and college students a semester of missions experience in Africa, will expand to other countries in January.

“[The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering] takes a huge weight off your shoulders,” said Geller, a senior agricultural major at Mississippi State University and member of First Baptist Church in El Dorado, Ark. “When you don’t have to support yourself overseas, that means you can dedicate all your time to ministry.”

This year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goal is $170 million. Last year, Southern Baptists gave a record $150.4 million to the offering, but fell short of the $165 million goal. In addition to helping with the Hands On program, the offering and the Cooperative Program also provide support for more than 5,500 missionaries.

Geller plans to return full time to the mission field after finishing his education.

“I’m sold,” Geller said. “As soon as I get my degree, get my seminary requirements … I’m ready to get back over there.”


Students’ lives are being changed by serving overseas, said Chad Stillwell, who heads up the IMB’s Hands On program. Many of the students are learning that becoming a missionary takes sacrifice. Though the Lottie Moon offering and the Cooperative Program helped Hands On students offset most of the costs, each student pays a flat rate that covers airfare, insurance, visa and training materials.

Aubrey Brown learned about sacrifice and the importance of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering while working in Tanzania with a Hands On team.

Living in the mountains in a mud hut with concrete floors and no electricity or running water, Brown — a member of First Baptist Church in Raymore, Mo. — taught English in a small school. The only existing supplies were chalk and a chalkboard.

Through the offering and reading supplies donated by her home church, Brown and her team ministered to the children in their English classes. Brown came away with an education of her own.

“The great thing about [this missions experience is] it gives you a better idea of what missionary life is truly like,” said Brown, a graduate of Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo. “I’m going back.”
* Name changed.
Shawn Hendricks is a writer with the International Mission Board. For more information on the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and how your gifts help support mission work, go to imb.org/lottieatwork. To learn how to get involved in the Hands On program, go to thetask.org/handson.

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  • Shawn Hendricks